Blank-check firm backed by Dish founder cuts IPO size

Charles Ergen, Dish Network’s founder, co-chairman and former chief executive, speaks at a conference on the future of wireless and broadband services in 2012. (Still frame via C-SPAN/Graphic: The Desk)

A blank-check company established by the founder and current chairman of Dish Network has downsized its initial public offering.

In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called CONX said it is now looking to raise $750 million, cutting its earlier target of $1.1 billion.

Organized by Dish Network founder Charlie Ergen, CONX is being operated as a blank-check firm for the purpose of raising funds through an IPO that will be used to merge with or acquire another company.

Funds raised through the IPO are held in an escrow account until a merger, acquisition or some other type of transaction closes. That closure must happen within 24 months or funds are returned to investors.

CONX Corp.’s chief executive was named in an earlier S-1 filing as Jason Kiser, the current treasurer of Dish Network and a close colleague of Ergen’s for more than three decades.

In that filing, Ergen and Kiser said the “selection process will leverage our management team’s broad and deep relationship network, unique industry experiences and proven deal sourcing capabilities to access a broad spectrum of differentiated opportunities.”

“This network has been developed through our management team’s extensive experience and demonstrated success in building businesses through organic growth and realization of strategic opportunities in the [telecom] industry,” the filing said, adding that Ergen and Kiser would likely continue to have fiduciary duties to both Dish Network and satellite technology company Echostar while running CONX Corp.

With the support of Ergen and other Dish Network executives, the satellite television company has been aggressively acquiring wireless spectrum for a forthcoming mobile phone and broadband data service. Earlier this year, the company acquired the prepaid phone company Boost Mobile from Sprint Corporation following a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.

Rumors have swirled in recent weeks of a possible acquisition of AT&T’s satellite unit DirecTV by Dish Network, though prior merger attempts proved futile following intense federal regulatory scrutiny. Analysts say a Dish Network-DirecTV merger, for the most part, no longer makes financial sense as cord-cutters increasingly move away from traditional pay TV services in favor of cheaper streaming options.

Earlier this month, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice warned against any potential merger between Dish Network and DirecTV until the industry had pushed further with its 5G wireless broadband network buildout.